Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lovelocks in Johannesburg

I first came across lovelocks a few years ago on a bridge fence across the Seine in Paris. It may have been my first introduction to this cultural phenomenon but it was old news in Europe; lovers, tourists, families, everyone with a need to express affection in a sort of lemming-like, publically symbolic manner was doing it. We were staying in a rather chic little apartment on the Ile St Louis nearby and I went back several times to photograph more of the literally thousands of locks that clung to the fence like an amourous bird colony. Most had some sort of whimsical inscription or little tweak that made them interesting. Many rusty ones had clearly been hanging there for years.

I was intrigued.

Well, for a while anyway. When we visited Venice the following year lovelocks had become a cheap thrill. The city's infamous fake brand bag sellers were flogging ridiculously small, five Euro locks to the tourist throngs on Accademia bridge, and Venice's staid bureaucracy was forced to shut down the whole industry lest the bridge collapses under a few tons of shiny, brand-new brass locks. It didn't take long for a fuzzy romantic moment to turn into hardware store cliché.

Now, what can I say about my hometown and lovelocks? Johannesburg's never one to be left off the cultural trend radar, so it's only natural that has it's own fence of lovelocks. A few dozen couples have sworn eternal love (well, barring a passing a  scrap metal collector armed with a cutting torch) by attaching lovelocks to a rather scenic section of fence where the road starts crossing the wall of Emmarentia Dam.

The locks have been there a while now, and the collection didn't grow much after Valentines day so I suspect lovelocks has yet to be 'discovered' in Johannesburg. What I mean is, a newly-wed celebrity still needs to be seen love-locking on television before the fence will fill up. (Note to self, major economic opportunity selling locks to wedding couples in the botanical garden doing photo shoots on Saturday afternoons.)

I'm not sure whether this is the city's only lovelock fence, but I haven't noticed any others around. Certainly Nelson Mandela Bridge is still blank.

So keep an eye out. If you spot a few padlocks clicked onto a fence and not keeping anything visible under lock and key, you may just be looking at lovelocks.

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